LONDON – A new report from WRAP has warned that a rapid cooling off in the market for UK used clothing could see an increasing proportion of textiles sent to landfill and incineration. The report says there is a need for a wider range of sustainable end markets for used clothing, including greater re-use in domestic and overseas markets as well as market development for recycling grades, including closed loop fibre-to-fibre recycling.
“The re-use and recycling market for used textiles has experienced an apparent turning point,” says the report, which estimates around 1.7 million tonnes of UK textiles are consumed every year, 1.1 million tonnes of which is clothing. It adds: “The last few years saw substantial growth in exports, accompanied by large price rises and reports of an influx of new entrants into the market. However, market conditions have now changed. Demand from overseas markets, stalled in 2014 and is now falling. Prices and revenues from exports have been falling since 2013/14.
“The market has been cooling off rapidly. This is reducing the incentive for recyclers and exporters to collect used textiles for re-use and recycling, which risks increasing the proportion sent to landfill and incineration, wasting environmental and economic benefit opportunities. The lack of robust end markets for recycling (as compared to re-use) is also contributing to the issue.
“Challenges ahead will involve the sector navigating these changing market conditions. Despite the widespread fall in prices, the value of exports per tonne remains relatively high by historical standards. There are also areas of growth, for instance in the Sub-Saharan region. However, demand from other key regions is falling. There are also some specific areas of uncertainty, for instance around the prospective ban on imports of used textiles in some African countries or around changes in import tariffs in Ukraine.”